As the media community and citizens across the world mark the first International Day to End Impunity tomorrow, which is also the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, we are offering our two-part report on the enormous cache of guns and the intricate web of bank accounts of the Ampatuan family members and their associates.

These reports draw significantly from fresh interviews with relevant sources, as well as from official records of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Commission on Audit, and the Ombudsman on the mansions, weapons, and bank accounts of the Ampatuans.

The PCIJ has obtained these records, several hundred pages in all, and validated their contents in interviews with official sources, bank executives and regulators, police officials, and the lawyers of the Ampatuans.

Part 1 of our report reveals that just a few weeks after the Maguindanao Massacre claimed the lives of 58 persons, including 32 media workers, on Nov. 23, 2009, officials of the Firearms and Explosives Division (FED) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were surprised to receive about a hundred applications for gun amnesty, mostly from Maguindanao.

The applicants were mostly members of the local civilian volunteer organizations, or CVOs, the local militia, who owed loyalty to the Ampatuan clan and had been implicated in the massacre.

Many of the firearms were the highly-priced Bushmaster M4A3, a variant of the M4 carbine used by many special forces units. Just a few years earlier, the Ampatuan clan, through the Maguindanao provincial government, had purchased 50 Bushmasters through gun trader Crisostomo Aquino, allegedly to fight the terrorist threat in the province.

The applications “numbering around a hundred,” immediately caught the attention of firearms regulators,” and were fortuitously foiled. A closer scrutiny of the firearms applications showed, according to a police general, that some of the CVO members applying for gun amnesty were in fact implicated in the Maguindanao Massacre itself. “If you look at the pictures on the wanted list, these were the same pictures in the amnesty applications application,” the general said.

Part 2 of our report reveals that a little over 20 Ampatuan clan members and a few associates, one of them a defense lawyer in the Maguindanao massacre cases, are listed as owners of about 600 bank accounts that represent over a billion pesos in cash and other transactions.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has secured a freeze-order from the Court of Appeals on these accounts. By Dec. 2, 2011 or next week, the freeze order would have lapsed.

The Philippines’ biggest banks are among the favorites of the Ampatuans. To this day, however, the questions linger: Did the banks file “suspicious transaction reports” with the AMLC pertaining to these accounts before the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. If the banks did, were the reports ignored by the AMLC? If the banks did not, were they called to task to explain such failure?

A banking industry regulator worries that it behind every major corruption case in the Philippines, it seems like a bank or group of banks had acquiesced to keep the deals secret.

A sidebar story looks at the still growing number of the mansions and other real properties that investigators have found to be owned by the Ampatuans not just in dirt-poor Maguindanao but also in the posh subdivisions of Davao City, Cotabato City, and Makati City.

Part 1 of our story is available here.

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